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24 Jan 2008 10:33
Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar posted a fairy-tale century to lift his side towards a challenging total on the first day of the fourth and final Test against Australia on Thursday.
In what seems certain to be his last Test on Australian soil, Tendulkar shook off a personal hoodoo at Adelaide Oval to score his 39th Test hundred and keep alive his side’s hopes of squaring the series.
After captain Anil Kumble won the toss and elected to bat, the tourists were 309-5 at stumps, with Tendulkar undefeated on 124 and Mahendra Singh Dhoni on six.
Several of his teammates squandered promising starts, but Tendulkar was rarely troubled by the Australian bowlers.
The 34-year-old went into the match with just 122 runs at 20,33 in his three previous visits to the ground, but it was clear he was on a mission from the time he strode to the crease to replace Rahul Dravid (18).
He was savage on recalled spinner Brad Hogg, lofting him for two sixes and scoring at better than a run a ball against him.
Tendulkar did not dally in the nineties, hitting spinner Michael Clarke straight for six, then caressing him through the covers from the next ball to reach a majestic hundred.
He had been at the crease for 198 minutes, faced 133 balls and hit nine fours and three sixes.
Tendulkar has 451 runs in the series at 90,20 and is now five centuries clear of retired duo Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara, with Australian captain Ricky Ponting one further back on 33.
A cautious Dhoni faced 54 balls and was given a life on three, when Matthew Hayden grassed an easy chance at first slip off Mitchell Johnson.
Tendulkar and VVS Laxman steadied the Indian innings after coming together at a shaky 156-4 on what appeared a perfect batting wicket, adding 126 runs.
Laxman enjoyed some extraordinary fortune on 37, with wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist inexplicably dropping an absolute sitter from the bowling of Brett Lee.
It continued an indifferent series with the gloves for the Australian veteran, who dropped four catches in the contentious second Test in Sydney.
However, Lee (2-62) and Gilchrist got their man on 51, when Laxman botched an attempt to evade a short ball and the ball ballooned off his glove to the wicketkeeper.
It was Gilchrist’s 412th dismissal in Test cricket, leaving him just one behind the record of South Africa’s Mark Boucher.
Virender Sehwag continued to enjoy his recall to the side, making a breezy 63 at the top of the order before being caught behind off the bowling of Lee.
He initially found himself partnered by all-rounder Irfan Pathan, who was put up the order after the Indians elected to play five specialist bowlers, recalling spinner Harbhajan Singh for struggling opener Wasim Jaffer.
Pathan, who batted at number eight in the third Test in Perth, put on 34 for the first wicket with Sehwag, before pushing at a Johnson delivery and only managing to get an edge to Gilchrist.
After adding 48 with Sehwag, Rahul Dravid (18) fell in similar fashion to Johnson (2-72), caught at second slip from a ball that angled across him.
Sehwag lived dangerously and eventually got an outside edge to first slip Matthew Hayden from the bowling of Lee, who was again impressive.
Ganguly (9) was the unluckiest of the batsmen, adjudged LBW to Hogg when the ball struck him outside the line of off stump and appeared to be missing.
Australia made two changes, with speedster Shaun Tait dropped for Hogg and opener Matthew Hayden, having recovered from a hamstring strain, recalled at the expense of Chris Rogers.
India are 2-1 down in the four-match series and cannot regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.—AFP
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